Cancer-suffering Korean song contestant rivets nation

Wed Nov 2, 2011 9:29am EDT
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - Lim Yoon-taek sings in a quartet battling for the crown in the third season of the South Korean equivalent of "American Idol," with the semifinals looming this Friday.

But the slight, bespectacled Lim is also fighting stage four stomach cancer, and his plight has captured the attention and sympathy of the nation.

The 32-year-old leader of the group Ulala Session shocked viewers and judges alike in September by revealing his illness when asked why his hair was so short. He said he had had his stomach and duodenum removed in June, during the preliminary rounds of the hit Superstar K program.

"I think that how one lives is more important than how long one lives. So I don't feel too bad," Lim said on the show.

Lim's group is one of three remaining since the final, on-air rounds began in August. If they make it through Friday's show they'll be headed for the finals next week.

Their song last week, "Western Sky", was the soundtrack of a film starring an actress who later died of stomach cancer. It subsequently became the single most downloaded song on Naver, the Korean equivalent of Google.

Signs have emerged that Lim is struggling. He has lost 7 kg (15 lb) since July, along with his hair and eyebrows, and missed the rehearsal for last week's show.

But his determination has drawn the admiration of many across the nation, where celebrities tend to conceal their illness if they have cancer.   Continued...

<p>Leader of the group Ulala Session, Lim Yoon-taek (2nd R), performs with team mates during a cable television competition programme Superstar K in Seoul, October 8, 2011. REUTERS/Mnet/Handout</p>